I Am an Atheist and I Am an American

As Mike has done, I am posting an article here that I included in my Atheism column a couple of days ago. I will have some fresh content later for this site. I have not had the opportunity to post here as often as I would like to. Only recently, at my request, Examiner.com allowed me to pick up another column. So, now in addition to being the National Atheism Examiner, I am the National Science Examiner under the Education channel. As you might imagine, the building of that site has kept me busy. Anyway, without further ado… a little something mushy from the heart. (Yes, atheists do have those.)

As President-elect Barack Obama makes his way along the east coast, I watch the media coverage with a great deal of interest. I must admit that I have had, once or twice, to choke back a tear or two.

While he was being introduced in Pennsylvania, I was moved by the emotion that was thick on the scene. The hopes and sentiments of the people in attendance echoed my own. As I watched Obama take the stage and as I listened to him speak, it occurred to me that never have I been so emotionally invested in a presidency as I have been while anticipating the coming one.

I can remember only a handful of times when I have felt such awe in regard to a presidency as I feel now. When I watched footage of President John Kennedy several years ago, I felt it. Of course, JFK died a year before I was born. The first time I studied the US Constitution, I was awestruck. Of course, that was written before my time. When I studied the writings of our founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, I was blown away by the vision they dared to strive for. When I read documents written by Abraham Lincoln, I was inspired. All of the things that have inspired such awe in me happened before I was born.

And now, there’s Barack Obama. He seemingly embodies what so many people have longed for – a presidency that will get this nation back on its secular track – symbolized, if you will, in his reenacting of the Whistle-Stop Train Tour. The train is back on track.

From the perspective of one atheist, me, this is a huge moment in American history. I, like so many atheists, strive every day to have the atheist voice heard – to be considered, if not represented, equally in this nation. Obama is the first glint of hope we have had in a very long time toward that end. Never have I felt so patriotic and so included as I do at this moment.

When he speaks, I believe he is speaking to everyone, including me – an atheist, and, yes, an American. And, even though I have heard him say, “God bless you and God bless America” at the end of his addresses today, I believe that he will be a president who will check his religion at the door when he is performing his duties as president. I believe he will work toward a government that is truly secular as it was intended to be. I am hopeful.

I have not been hopeful in a long time. I have not dared to believe. As days go by a different reality than the one I hope for may unfold. Nevertheless, for now, I will continue to hope. I will continue to believe. And, no matter what, I will remember that, even if only for a moment, I knew what it was like to feel included and to feel like an American.

  • Siamang

    I believe that he will be a president who will check his religion at the door when he is performing his duties as president.

    I want to say as an atheist myself, I do not need a president who would check his or her religion at the door. Merely one who recognizes that he serves people of all walks of life, and one who recognizes that every strength and insight he needs to call on as president can be drawn from all of our shared values as Americans, and the multitude of our broad and varied perspectives.

  • Richard Wade

    Being a bit older than you, Trina, I have survived eleven Presidents before Barack Obama. I was one of the last people who had to wait until I was 21 in order to vote, and I think because of that I have never missed voting in any election. I was able to vote in the last seven Presidential elections, but only three of my choice won. So “surviving” them has been a big part of my experience. I too am feeling more hope and optimism than I have ever felt before, not just as an atheist but also as a human.

  • Hopeful

    This is almost exactly how I’ve felt. It’s gratifying to see other’s feel the same way. I am an Atheist and I AM AN AMERICAN! I’m sick and tired of being treated like I’m not.

  • Hoffy

    As an Australian watching the inauguration I was astonished at the level of hysteria and it made me see just how troubled the US is, I was shocked that Religion was to play such a HUGE part in the process and I was extremely saddened to see that it was going to be just more of the GW faith based politics, the real danger having said that comes not from the hype but from the depression that comes when Obama fails to deliver, it appears that everyone thinks that the rich and powerful in the states are suddenly going to come good and play fair, sorry but they won’t ,their going to continue running the show and all Obamas fine words mean nothing, I’m playing the devil advocate but a reality check is in order me thinks…………….

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